March 21, 2017
The Hale-Bopp Comet and Heaven's Gate
P. Clay Sherrod
Many times the passage of time - and our abilities to remember the years that pass - is marked permanently in our memories by dramatic events, typically catstrophic or with such notable 'force' as to register forever in the deep banks of our memories. Such an event was the passage of the Comet 1995 O1 Hale-Bopp in the spring of 1997, a time when I was observing it nightly from the red bluffs on the western end of Petit Jean Mountain. This comet reached a bright naked eye brightness in the evening skies and was seen by millions with its beautiful curving tail night after night. But it was not this glorious site that strikes the memories from March 26, 1997
On March 26, 2017, it will be 20 years since we heard the breaking news about the mass suicides of the separatist cult Heaven's Gate in California. Led by Marshall Applewhite, a total of at least 39 people - men women and their children either voluntarily drank poisonous punch to end their lives, or in some cases were perhaps force-fed to drink the deadly concoction. The cult had been established by Appelwhite after he had experienced a neaer-death encounter in 1971; they were told of a prophecy that said that aliens would arrive on Earth to take away disciples who believed in their coming for an exodus into the kingdom of God.
A tip to authorities on March 26, 1997, led law enforcement to the huge compound atop a ridge at Rancho Santa Fe in the hills just outside of the suburbs of San Diego California. When they arrived, the police found nothing but dead bodies....no sign of life, and no sigh of Applegate himself, nor his highest in command. There has not been any knowledge of their survival nor whereabouts since them.
Photograph of Comet Hale-Bopp, 1995 O1 taken by P. Clay Sherrod from the west overlook at Red Bluff, Petit Jean Mountain, Arkansas
May 3, 1997 - Pentax SLT w/50mm lens 30-second exposure; comet was magnitude -0.1 in the constellation of Taurus and at a distance of about 175 million miles from Earth.
Applewhite preached the prophecy that the Aliens would arrive cloaked or disguised cleverly out of the Heavens to select those to return with to the Kingdom. When astronomers in early 1997 learned of a small fragment that had been located photographically following this comet - nothing more than a fragment which had broken away from the parent object - Marshall Applewhite was convinced that this was the cloaked spaceship that had come to apprehend his people. Convincing that the only way to be among those selected, he convinced the group that they would drink the poisonous punch, then go to sleep and never awake.
We are only hoping that the disappearance of Applewhite and his strongmen from the Heaven's Gate compound was due to alien abduction.
Do you remember May 1997?